There are 100 million coffee drinkers in the U.S., with over 50% of the population drinking coffee after age 18. This means that coffee is a big business. Since not all coffee is the same, however, the price of each cup will vary. So how much are we spending on coffee? The most expensive coffee, including Kopi Luwak, Black Ivory Coffee, and Death Wish coffee, ranges in price from $40 a pound to $950 a pound!
Most Expensive Coffee from Imports
1. Kopi Luwak (Up to $400 per pound)
This coffee made headlines, has inspired YouTube video tastings, and even caused a few celebrity one-liners in movies. The coffee bean is partially-digested when eaten by an Asian palm civet. (Yes, you’ll have to dig the coffee cherry out of the animal’s waste to retrieve it.) Praised by connoisseurs, Kopi Luwak has been the subject of animal rights campaigns, which accuse the process of retrieving the sought-after bean “cruel” for civet. Is it worth the very high price tag? You’ll have to be the judge.
2. Black Ivory Coffee (Up to $950 a pound)
Black Ivory Coffee is another product of animals. By far the most expensive coffee in the world, it costs a bit less than $1,000 a pound! Elephants eat the coffee cherry, and then the cherry is separated from the dung before being cleaned and roasted. It lacks the bitterness of cheaper coffees, and has been stated as a more animal-friendly alternative to the Kopi Luwak. Proceeds of the coffee are commonly set aside for elephant care and preservation.
3. Yauco Selecto Coffee ($25.99 per pound)
The farther away a coffee has to travel, the more you can expect to pay for it. This is especially true of the Yauco Selecto AA Coffee, an import from Puerto Rico. A 100% pure, whole bean variety of this type of coffee will be among the most expensive you can buy as a consumer. It boasts a robust flavor and an aroma that coffee lovers say can’t be matched.
4. Panama Geisha Coffee ($30+ a pound)
With a taste that resembles a lemon cookie, this special coffee thrives in very strict conditions in Panama, so very few farms can actually grow it. Expect to pay a lot for the privilege of this tasting. Geisha beans blends (if you can get them) cost between $30 and $45 a pound.
5. Cuban Coffee (priceless)
At the moment, it’s still impossible to get 100% Cuban-sourced beans here in the U.S. With talks of a future embargo life on coffee imports, however, the fantasy could soon become a reality. Those hoping to drink their first cup of legal Cuban brew may pay a bit more than expected once it is available; the supply isn’t expected to keep up with the demand. In the meantime, Cuban “style” coffee (made from mostly cheap Colombian beans) are a budget-friendly way to experience the flavor.
Most Expensive Coffee Sold Domestically
1. Starbucks Reserve Ethiopia Gedeb ($17.49 per pound)
This Ethiopian, “small-batch” bean contains notes of apricot and clove, as well as a honeysuckle aroma. And while Starbucks is a very commercial company, most customers are perfectly happy paying more per pound for these exotic experiences right here in the U.S. This special variety, is not the most expensive coffee. It doesn’t, however, have a fairly high-end price tag. It can be purchased for a limited time at select local Starbucks locations and via their subscription program.
(Note: When the Ethiopia Gedeb runs out, check back through their Reserve collection for another selection. They continually offer at least one type of bean for the same price.)
2. Death Wish Coffee ($19.99 per pound)
Claiming to be the “world’s strongest coffee”, this blend is made in upstate New York and focuses on a high caffeine content as an alternative to energy drinks. With notes of cherry and chocolate, Death Wish Coffee is smooth, not bitter, while still providing a kick you can’t get anywhere else. For an even pricier experience, buy their coffee in K-cups!
3. Starbucks VIA (up to $22.71 per pound)
Starbucks instant coffee isn’t cheap. It’s about as expensive as buying a fresh-brewed cup from the shop in person, but allows you the freedom to enjoy it anywhere you have access to hot water. While their plain flavors won’t cost quite as much, seasonal favorites (such as the Pumpkin Spice Latte) will run the full $22+ dollars a pound. It only takes a little over an ounce of the stuff to make a good cup of brew!
4. JavaZen Tea-Infused Coffee ($26 per pound)
Why choose between coffee or tea, when you can have both? JavaZen tries to give you coffee taste with the benefits of herbal tea blends that promote healing and wellness. With organic ingredients and names like Boost, Balance, and Relax, it’s easy to see that they are trying to offer more than just coffee flavor. You’ll also find superfoods in these drinks; the Pumpkin Spice seasonal offering contains turmeric, Tulsi tea, and lucuma, too!
5. K-Cup Coffee Pods ($40 a pound)
The k-cup has changed the way many drink coffee. It offers a quick and easy way to brew one, fresh cup at a time with the flavor that’s made coffee shops so popular! Unfortunately, the price for convenience is high (and a bit unfriendly to the environment.) A k-cup contains enough coffee for just one cup, but a full pound of your own ground coffee can get you up to 34 cups! The most expensive coffee is that box of pods you bought from a local discount retailer, not that imported treasure everyone is raving about.
Most Expensive Coffee in the World, Ranked
|2||Black Ivory Coffee||$950/pound|
|1||K-cup Coffee Pods||$40/pound|
|2||JavaZen Tea-Infused Coffee||$26/pound|
|4||Death Wish Coffee||$20/pound|
|5||Starbucks Reserve Ethiopia Gedeb||$17.50/pound|
How to Make Cheap Coffee Taste Expensive
Now that we know what the most expensive coffee can be for a regular drinker, how do you get the best experience for the buck?
Brew your own from fair-trade brand offered at your local grocer or health food store. Sample different varieties over time, and avoid extra charges for having someone else do the work. A drip machine with a reusable filter is an affordable way to brew at home.
Drinking alone? Invest in a single-cup drip machine. You can brew fresh for every cup and not waste what you don’t consume. If you absolutely must have your k-cup, limit yourself to special occasions or consider a reusable alternative. There are several “cups” on the market that work in your k-cup machine, but use your own, fairly priced coffee. It’s also possible to hack a used cup!
Here’s another tip: Grind your already-ground coffee a bit more in your coffee grinder. (the Magic Bullet works well.) The extra-fine powder will produce a more robust flavor, just like the fancy blends. This is also a great way to fill those reusable one-cup products.
The most expensive coffee is something most of us can’t afford. Creating a great coffee experience can have less to do with the bean’s origin, and more with how you treat the brewing process. Invest in good equipment, pair your coffee with fine foods, and take time to enjoy your cup. You’ll mostly likely always get your money’s worth in this way.